By Roger Van Frank
Darke County Parks
Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday of May each year. Although I am sure you know that Memorial Day honors those that have lost their lives serving in the U.S. military. Several think of it as an extra day off and use it for family gatherings, picnics, and just plain celebrations of life. I grew up in a military based family. My Father, Father-in-Law, Brother, Nephew, and Son all have served this great nation. I am thankful they all returned from the conflicts and wars in which they served. Everyone knows someone that has served and for that I am thankful. During my tenure as your Darke County Parks Director I have met Veterans that are still volunteering into their fourth quarter of life. The Parks have a need for these volunteers as their leadership for the stewards of tomorrow is invaluable. They lead by example!
Recently, my son and his fiancé moved into a new home and as a way to meet neighbors they volunteered with the local mayor and a group of citizens to plant trees on Arbor Day. I was happy to learn that he has started to volunteer for the community but, I should not be surprised as he voluntarily enlisted into the military and served almost eight years. His team spirit and comradery have carried forward into civilian life. My daughter and son-in-law are also public servants working in the environmental field of water treatment. Working in and leading in national committees to ensure that our water systems are sustainable for the next generations. Not an easy task with the shortages seen in the Colorado River basin that serves the western states.
I am retiring this year and continue to think about what lies ahead for my wife and I. Volunteering is definitely in our future and possibly some part time work in the National Park Service. I have met some of the most unique veterans and public servants in my position over the past 40 plus years of service and they have taught me that my service does not stop with that retirement date that is looming in the near future. I have had the distinct honor to work with nine different Park Board Commissioners over my 21 years as the Parks Director of Darke County Parks. They all have one distinct trait in common with each other and that is offering a better quality of life through education and preservation of land for the generations to come. They have all accepted the challenge asked of them by our probate judges and have been volunteers. They receive no pay for their efforts. Three of our commissioners have a combined service time of over 100 years. Commitment to the community is obvious but love for the purpose of parks is overwhelming. I have learned so much from our veterans and volunteers serving as your Parks Director. I hope that I can and have passed this on to younger generations.
I want to thank those that have given all, so that we can live as we do. Please Lead By Example and have a great Memorial Day Weekend!